I am moving to a new job soon. I’ve been in the same area for about seven months, but next week (heck, next year) I will move on and do something else. I can’t believe my time there is almost finished. It’s been quite a ride, and I’m going to miss it. I took my coworkers out for lunch today to thank them for all they’ve done. They’ve all been a huge support, and I appreciate their help immensely. I took them out today for a nice lunch at an Italian restaurant highly recommended by a friend of mine. Her tastes are impeccable, and her restaurant choices are excellent.
The meal was delicious as expected. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from an upscale Italian restaurant. The garlic bread with vinegar and oil, leafy green salad, rice pilaf, spaghetti carbonara, espresso, and gelato took me away from Korea for a brief respite. I soon came back to reality when the waiter brought out a plate of red chilis and sweet pickles. Chilis and sweet pickles served at an Italian restaurant? You’ve got to be kidding! Oh, yes. Sweet pickles are a nod to the Korean palate. Western-style restaurants can’t very well get away with serving customers a vat of aromatic kimchi, so they subtly substitute innocuous sweet pickles instead. I can’t get away from sweet pickles at my favorite Italian restaurant (another one) near my office, nor at my favorite Indian restaurant, and I couldn’t escape them when I ate at a fabulous French restaurant in Busan. The only foreign cuisine I’ve found in Korea not subjected to the tinge of sweet pickles is Mexican cuisine. Of course, chili peppers are a staple in Mexican food, so Koreans merely substitute chilis for kimchi.
It seems that no matter where you are–in Korea, the U.S., or elsewhere–you just can’t get away from food localization. Restaurants serving foreign cuisine will always tailor it to local tastes. That’s fine, but I think I’ll pass on the sweet pickles.